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Friday, July 22, 2022

Maine 2022: Big Blue Sky

Today is our final day in Maine, and tomorrow's trek home will likely begin around 7:30am-ish.  Seeing as though my wife's family is composed mainly of (notoriously) early risers, we may in fact be the last to leave.  It's all good though, no matter how things play out.  As I mentioned in a prior posting, today was kept purposefully unscheduled, except for some preliminary packing.  

The actual day was fine.  We ended up making a second trip to the Maine Prison Showroom, where I purchased a shirt and a cool red birdhouse.  The prices there for the products offered are really very, very good.  It's also good to know that purchases benefit prisoners who are trying to better their lives.  In my estimation, the penal system in this country doesn't seem to provide much in the way of rehabilitation; instead, this is much more of a punishment-based system.  Yes, there should be consequences for illegal acts, but society also has an obligation to help those who want to serve their time and then live a better life.  

Also on tap for today was a hike that Ms. Rivers was interested in taking.  That yielded a few photographs...

...all of which scream Maine at a very high volume.  

Speaking of photographs, after deleting a few errant photos of nothing, I made copies of the shots I've taken and provided them to Ms. Rivers' brother and one of her sisters (for sharing with her parents).  As I noted during a kind of closing campfire, I haven't been taking many photographs over the past year or so.  I think that's as much a statement about how difficult the past two or three years have been as it is anything else.  When stressed, it seems only natural that some of the things we enjoy doing end up taking a backseat.  Coming to Maine and being an unofficial photographer has been helpful for me.

Maine provides, in addition to things like popular dinner arthropods and unpopular mosquitos, an opportunity for deep thoughts.  As I was trying not to think about anything this afternoon...always a losing proposition for occurred to me just how essential things like vacations are, no matter where, no matter how long.  It's just far too easy to fall into mental ruts and unhealthy patterns when so much of how we are wired is geared towards sameness and predictability.  Even when that sameness and predictability is ultimately unhealthy.  Vacations can provide something of a lifeline out of these ruts.  The trick, I believe, is to take bite-sized pieces out of a vacation and graft them as new pieces into our daily lives.  

Finally, in addition to using my Sony digital SLR camera, I have been using my Pixel 6 phone to take photographs, and it has not disappointed me.  I'll end this series of posts with a very fitting sunset or two.

Here's to more beatiful sunsets, be they in Maine or anywhere else for that matter.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Maine 2022: Puffin

One of the things I wanted to accomplish during this vacation was to just have the time to read.  By way of disclosure, I read all of the time.  As in constantly.  As in I am always reading.  What's been difficult over the past two years has been actually reading books cover to cover.  This is more about a series of cosmic disruptions in my life, mostly related to employment than anything else.  Put more directly, I just have gotten so tired with everything I try to do that, by the time I want to read a book I have nothing mentally left.  

All of the above noted, I brought two books with me on vacation, although one of them is well over 700 pages, so I think it should count as multiple books.  That book, Ashes to Ashes, is a history of the tobacco industry.  You can find that book HERE.  About 150 pages in, and I love the book.  Now I'm not going to sermonize about the topic of the book, but what I will say is this:  I wish no one used tobacco products.  They literally kill you.  Our lives are just too precious.  

As I write this, it is about 8am, and today's literary includes, of all things, puffin watching.  This is actually more about being on a boat and taking pictures than it is about puffins, but I'm going to run with it.  From there?  We shall see.

Back again and it's the end of the day.  As for puffin watching, well, it was a success.  Here's some evidence:

I didn't get any puffins in flight, as the little guys (and gals) are small and move very quickly, making photos with a zoom lens kind of difficult.  All things considered though, it was enjoyable, even if my hands felt like a salted pretzel afterward.  To and from Puffin Island there was the usual assortment of scenic Maine things...

I will add that there was a substantial haze in the air to and from Puffin Island. 

Finally, whenever the subject of puffins comes up, I am always reminded of Bloom County's Opus the Penguin...

(with apologies to Berkeley Breathed)

On that note, I am going to wrap this posting up.  Tomorrow is our last full day in Maine, and while we don't have much planned, I still hope to get some picture-taking time.  Speaking of pictures, I have taken a few hundred so far, and after a culling of the memory card, a copy of what remains will be going to the parents of Ms. Rivers, as I think part of my job is to be an official family photographer for these kinds of things.  Capturing memories for two wonderful people (Rev. David and Liz Rivers) is a wonderful job to have by any measure.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Maine 2022: Why

I can't think of a more compelling title, so I'm going with simply "Why", that is until something better comes up.  There probably is a good reason for the title, by the way, but the bigger question is this:  Is it worth sharing?  I know, cryptic stuff makes for bad writing, so I'll stop.  For now.

Anyway, today had been planned as a day trip to what could best be described as an "artists island", but that didn't pan out, mostly on account of the fact that we could get ferry tickets to the island, but getting ferry tickets back wasn't possible.  And it's too far to swim.  Artist island being off the table, there was a replacement in the form of a visit to Port Clyde, a lighthouse, and a cemetery (in that order).  

Tackling that itinerary LIFO* order, the cemetery trip was to find some deceased Rivers clan members, along with accompanying members of the Davis family (who, I am told, are connected to the Rivers family by marriage...make that many marriages...apparently).  It was hot work, but several Rivers and Davis folk were found, and photos were taken for future genealogical reference.  Or to just help the next person not spend an hour looking for lichen-encrusted tombstones.  A sample is noted below.

It was nice helping Ms. Rivers with this most family of tasks.  

Side note:  While this part of Maine is something of an ancestral home of Rivers (and Davis), apparently, there are no above-ground Rivers to be found in these parts.

The Marshall Point lighthouse, working backward on my original list, was actually very nice.  A few photographs below provide some evidence of this fact.

Our first stop was Port Clyde itself, where lunch was had at the Port Clyde General Store.  This place looks exactly like what one would expect from a "Port Clyde, Maine, General Store".  The proof is as follows:

Rounding out the day was a lobster dinner at our compound.  What I'll say about that is the following..." I am sure it was well prepared".  That last quote is my standard response to virtually any food that I will not eat, and lobsters are definitely on that list.  I will note that I have tried lobster, and I found it to be basically just rubbery, with a fishy taste.  Again, no slight intented against the cooks, but it's just not my bag.  

"I only extrovert when I am paid."

The above quote gets to the title of this posting.  I'll admit to a certain feeling of being disconnected at family gatherings.  That's 100% me, and 0% everyone else.  This just wasn't something we did a lot of in my own family growing up, so I think there's a part of me that just doesn't know what to do.  Now part of me thinks that's a pretty asinine thing for a 58-year-old to admit (and/or write), but I've always tried to be honest and real in these writings over the past 14 years, so I'm going to stick with my guns here and keep going.  

"I only extrovert when I am paid." was my response once to someone who, at work, was shocked when I told them that am basically pretty introverted.  This shock comes from the fact that, over my many years in the professional workforce, much of my work has centered around teaching adults things.  Part of that, I will bluntly state, involves entertaining people.  Simply put, no one is going to listen to, let alone learn anything from someone who is about as engaging as a wad of chewing gum.  While I wouldn't use the word "engaging" to describe my professional work, I will say this:  I know how to make boring stuff seem interesting; see "entertaining people".  

To tie this all together, I choose not to be my work self when I am on vacation.  Part of me thinks that I should, but that would require work, which would then be in defiance of what a vacation is supposed to stand for in the first place.  It is, in a sense, a very real "catch-22":  I feel somewhat disconnected, but I also fight the urge to be entertaining or engaging as I would at work.  What's left?  A very uneasy kind of mental truce that can sometimes be difficult to navigate.  That navigation seemed more difficult today than it did on other days this week, for reasons I just can't explain.

Lastly, all of the above isn't intended to endear sympathy or even understanding from anyone; it's just me being honest, with both myself and the world.  In the final analysis, I think the world has something of an honesty deficit these days, as the complexity of our lives can make discerning fact from fiction increasingly more difficult.  Score another victory for the clarity that Maine has to offer.

(*) In case you forgot your Accounting 101 lessons, that would be "Last In, First Out".


Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Maine 2022: A Dog's Life

In addition to the 19 or so humans with us during our week in Maine are two dogs, Blue and Laya...

...who came with Ms. Rivers' sister.  

These are wonderful dogs by the way.  Well, most dogs are wonderful.  In fact, as I've noted before, most dogs are better than most people.  That's about a 50% indictment of bad-actor humans and a 50% endorsement of dogs.  In fact, I'll even blame bad-acting dogs on crappy human owners.  All this noted I'll never own a dog.  Growing up we had a dog (Choo-Choo, who was a beagle/dachshund who I am told smelled), and while that was enjoyable enough, it's just not for me.  I recognize that I'm not a good enough human to own a dog.  Unlike many actual dog owners.

Back to Maine.

We're staying at a rather large rental that sleeps in excess of 20 people, split between a large building and a smaller cottage.  All told a nice place.  It did come with something of an "October Suprise" in the form of a message from the property owners, who basically said, "hey, we're being sued by our neighbors, so if you be on your best behavior, well, that would be appreciated".  For the record, we are nothing if not a well-behaved group.

The good news is that the above message from the owner is far worse than the reality of this place, so no complaints (so far...).  I think that Maine is the kind of place where people basically just leave others alone.  That's a far better concept than that of New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die", which doesn't leave someone with much in the way of options.

As I start to write this (at 7:55am) it's kind of damp here in Cushing, which is understandable given the rain, mist, fog, and 180% humidity.  There's a kind of beauty in all of this and is yet another example (as referenced in the last posting) of how Maine has its own way of thinking about things, giving us the gift of perspective.  

Today's plans include a trip to Augusta, where my younger stepson will meet a friend of his and I will, hopefully, find that Holy Gail of sneakers, namely a decent pair of Rockports.  Seeing as though I probably have less than 5 millimeters worth of sole left in my sneakers. Being in Maine you would think that finding sneakers that are kinda-sorta associated with Maine would be relatively easy, but that's not been the case.  Hopefully, as we travel to the actual Rockport (Maine), my quest will yield some results.

On that note, it's time to end this screen.  I'll pick things up later.

It's now a hair bit after 10pm, and I am tired.  Today's jaunt included a trip to Augusta, the capital of Maine.  I will note "in all of its 16,000 inhabitants glory".  I think that last sentence speaks for itself.  The trip itself was not motivated by a desire for sightseeing, as there literally is not much to see in Augusta, but rather because my younger stepson has a friend in the area that he wanted to spend some time with.  Augusta just seemed to be the most logical place to visit.  Anyway, and as something of an update to this morning's screed, I did find a pair of sneakers, all be it not Rockports.

Regarding that last sentence, I can say with a bit of astonishment that, in actually buying new sneakers in Augusta, Maine, something unique happened:  I actually visited a shoe store that, gasp, didn't include vast stacks of shows followed by implicit directions of "fend for yourselves customers".  Yes, for the first time in something like 40 years, I actually got my feet measured (a bit over 12.5, and between EE and EEE in width) and got what seemed like the concierge shoe service.  I ended up not buying Rockports (apparently the company went bankrupt or some other terrible thing), but I did find a higher-end sneaker that fits and is comfortable.  Maine, it seems, was not going to least in the shoe department.

The rest of the day has been more or less laid back and included a 1-year-old's birthday party.  

Some additional photos from the day included those from a morning walk...

...and a set of spectacular sunset photos; one shown below...

As for tomorrow, well it's a bit of an open book.  This is not the worst thing in the world.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Maine 2022: Three Left Turns

It's nearly the end of day 3 in Cushing, Maine, and among the observations I have is that directions anywhere around here usually involve taking three consecutive left (or right) turns.  Just play that one out in your head for a moment.  Anyway, the roads in these parts are narrow and winding around corners in ways that make the faint of driving heart nervous, at the very least.  Fortunately for me, my driving is always during the day, and my Silverado maneuvers well in spite of its large size. 

Another observation is courtesy of my younger stepson, who has noticed that many of the people he sees in Maine are of a short, stout physical disposition.  After two trips to WallyWorld, and well, I have at least some observations to back up his point.  No doubt this attribute serves them well in the harsh Springs, Autumns, and Winters.  

To that last point, I actually did some checking, and it turns out that the average month-by-month temperatures in Cushing, Maine, are not all that dissimilar to that of, for example, Scranton, PA.  So much for that theory.  Maybe it's more about a diet high in potatoes and blueberries (with the former seeming to me to be what would grow in these parts...the latter is a given).  In any event, while stocky in stature, the folks here are also pretty friendly, even to outsiders careening down their winding roads in Silverados.

All other points aside, this place is very much Maine, with all that entails.  This is an old place, and it's hard not to be impacted in some way by what you see.  

Being an old place, Maine has another lesson to teach me:  That no matter what I think, I am never really in charge.  All of us are just but pebbles on the shore, momentarily exposed by low tide.


By this measure, maybe all of the competitive things society teaches us about "getting ahead" are not nearly as important as they seem to be.  Part of Maine is simply the gift of perspective.

Finally, part of any travel story is logistics, and today's logistical challenge was the fact that it was Ms. Rivers' turn to make dinner for our 19-person crew.  With some patience, lots of hard work (on her part), and her (as always) good planning, things went off without a hitch.  My contributions included gutting a watermelon and washing/preparing what seemed like an endless supply of lettuce.  For me, well, that's enough.  No one will ever accuse me of being in any way, shape, or form a cook.  

On that note, it's time to close out today.  I have a small self-inflicted knife cut to nurse and a somewhat swollen and very arthritic right big toe to mend.  All things considered, I got off easy today. 

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Maine 2022: Hope is the thing with feathers

Starting yesterday, and continuing through the end of next week, it's officially vacation time.  As in a real, multi-day, have to travel somewhere and interact with other humans vacation.  The specifics of this particular vacation center around my in-law's 61st wedding anniversary, and involve Ms. Rivers's family gathering in Maine, as that is where the senior Mr. & Mrs. Rivers had their honeymoon, many moons ago.  This was a trip that was postponed from a prior year (a 60th wedding anniversary trip seems to make a bit more sense, don't you think?), mostly on account of the 'rona*, which was a reasonable thing to do, all things considered.

This is, by the way, my third trip to Maine over the years.  One of the wonderful things about being married to Ms. Rivers is that, sans her involvement, I am reasonably sure I would never have gone to Maine in my lifetime,   That prior statement only makes sense if, for example, you've actually been to  Maine.

As I've written here before, I consider Maine to be a different kind of place.  The coastline is nothing short of awe-inspiringly beautiful, but over and above that, there's just something uniquely Maine-ly about Maine.  It's as if there's a different set of mental rules here...a different reality of sorts...that you can only understand if you've actually spent time in Maine.  It's a feeling that is pretty hard to put into words, and pictures only do it a kind of somewhat justice.  Speaking of pictures, there will be many over the next few days.  I may even plug some into a posting or three.

I know that's standard fare to say things like "I really need this vacation" when you are writing about vacation, and while I like to pride myself on the fact that I am reasonably good at writing things down, the reality is that I  really do think I need this time off.  There has been just so very, very much that has been fundamentally changing.  By that, I mean changes in the world, so many career changes for me over the past two years, changes in health, et al.  Through it all I have been doing what I think I do best:  Plowing through.  Yet, I suspect that even the best actual farm plow gets dull after too much usage and needs some kind of sharpening.  For me?  See Maine, above.

I'm not hoping for any miracles, by the way.  My hobbled right big toe will, for example, be as painful the week after next as it is now.  In fact, I'm not hoping for anything.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
(Emily Dickinson)

I've learned that hope is pretty much a useless kind of thing when viewed just by itself.  Where it has any real value in our lives is when it's coupled with some action.  See Maine, above.

So, what does all of this really, truly mean?  Well, seeing as though I started writing this at 6:02am in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (and it's now 6:33am), I'm not sure I can say.  As much as I haven't been writing much lately, sometimes the words just come out on their own without any real effort from me.  That's the case now.  This post is basically just writing itself; I'm just here to edit.

On that note, it's time to move on to other things.  There will be more to come.

(*) COVID-19 for the more sophisticated types out there.